I haven’t been glued to the ins and outs of COVID-19. I’ve been trying to manage the news, allowing only the highlights to scroll through the bottom part of my mind’s eye. My work is deeply entrenched in real-time impacts and that is quite simply, enough. I only have so much bandwidth for bad news. I work. I come home and work more.
But the impacts are inescapable. Today, while going on a walk through our neighborhood, I saw this in our neighborhood park. A playground horse, you know, the ones attached to a humongous spring, was wrapped in Yellow Caution tape. In fact, the whole playground was wrapped in the stuff. The picnic tables. The merry go round. The swings. All were off-limits. I didn’t read the sign posted in orange letters. No doubt it threatened discipline to include jail or fines.
When the virus first hit our shores, it was distant for most of us. A few pockets in the Northwest and Detroit and New York were popping up. But like most danger, we believe it would pass us by. But then with lightning speed, the dots began to spread across the country with thousands of positives nearly every day.
As of today, there are 1.2 million cases worldwide. And likely there are some in your town. Maybe even your family.
The virus is a thief.
It is stealing our health. Like a medical bully, it is picking off our most vulnerable. The aged are the most likely to die from the virus. Having lived full lives marked by school, work, family and retirement, a silent bug takes it all way. It’s a cruel executioner, picking off those who have diabetes, lung and heart issues.
It’s stealing our livelihood. We just experienced the greatest two weeks of job loss in our nation’s history. The entire world is shutting down and billions of lives are being impacted. It’s one thing to stay home for the common good. It’s quite another to pay the rent, to buy groceries and afford basic living. Governments cannot prop this up for long.
It is stealing our confidence. We have a certain swagger in our country. We’ve lived through war, terrorism, drought, and Depression. We’ve had the entire world hate us because of our ability to produce and flex our strength. We’ve protected the innocent only to have the bully find a way to call us names. And yet we’ve prevailed. Usually, in times of crisis, we come together. But now, we are fractured, pointing fingers when we should be lifting each other up.
It is stealing our future. The impact on tomorrow is uncertain, but we all know it will change. Businesses will never recover. The huge transfer of made up printed money from our treasury will take decades to repay. Our retirements are not only in question, but our tomorrows. No one really knows.
It is stealing our freedoms. How quickly we gave up our cherished rights to free speech, to assemble, to worship. In the name of emergency, we, like sheep, complied. And now in some locations, police are roaming the streets, looking for freedom lovers. Martial law isn’t far off. I understand the protection and temporary restraints. But the speed we gave up our rights should give us pause.It is stealing from our children. The accumulated wealth of Baby Boomers, their business acumen and holdings may evaporate. And isn’t just wealth that won’t get passed to our children. It’s the world that has been built for them that is at risk. Commerce, education, and entertainment are all upside side. What is their future?
It is stealing our innocence. An entire generation has now grown up in a 9-11 world. Our youth don’t know what it’s like to walk onto an airplane without raising their arms and being scanned. They don’t know what it’s like to take a water bottle onto on airplane. They don’t know what a world without a terror threat looks like. Like the Civil War, the Depression, World War II, Viet Nam War, the Kennedy assassination, and the Civil Rights unrest and 9/11 forever changed culture, this too will change our world. The innocent world of having a conversation with a stranger might forever disappear. Exploring new lands and new peoples will forever be haunted by the lurking, silent unknown.
It cannot have my joy
But COVID-19 cannot steal our joy.
Joy is a misplaced word, incidentally, thrown into birthday parties and honeymoons and a surprise bunch of flowers from a lover. But that’s not what it means.
For me, and others of faith, joy is the that deep-rooted strength that doesn’t depend on circumstance. It’s a word that frustrates the worldly man or woman, who measures everything by a net sum/gain. But our view is deeper and longer and simply not a problem to solved by a set of variables.
Jack Wellman level sets the word. “Joy remains even amidst the suffering. Joy is not happiness.”
Rick Warren says this. “Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”
Joy is the secret ingredient to a resilient life. And no. I’m not giving that up.
COVID. You can take my riches, my liberty, my freedom, and even my life. But you cannot take my joy.